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Kurt Bills in unusual union predicament

“Tomato terrorism”; Rochester’s healthy growth; Target revenue misses target; a “safe” Fourth; UMD bails on “Un-Fair” campaign; and more.

At MPR, Catharine Richert looks at GOP Senate candidate Kurt Bills’ unique position as an anti-union-benefits lifelong union member: “Bills, a Republican who is running against DFL incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said Walker’s campaign to scale back public sector union costs was a good idea. But in the same breath, Bills also said he was proud to be a lifelong union member. ‘I understand trade unions. I’m in a public union right now with the teachers union,’ Bills told reporters. ‘[I’m] totally an advocate for collective bargaining rights, and think that unions have a great place in our country.’ … Bills sponsored legislation that would have prevented teachers unions from communicating with members via work e-mail or mailboxes about specific candidates, referendum questions or to solicit political donations. He supported ‘right-to-work’ legislation that would have made unions voluntary, and authored a bill that would have prevented employers from diverting dues from an employee’s paycheck to the union, a move that unions say would make it difficult collect payments. Bills said his legislation was aimed at making unions less political because they’ve been co-opted by the Democratic Party.”

It’s tomato terrorism in Grand Forks. Sam Benshoof of the Forum papers reports: “About a month after they first appeared, the origin of tomato plants throughout downtown remains a mystery. There’s been a lot of curiosity about the randomly placed plants, which highlight the concept of community gardening, said Lauryn Whitmer, organizer of the local community gardening group F/M Food Not Lawns. A laminated card accompanying the plants describes how the tomatoes were ‘bombed’ in buckets around downtown for the public to enjoy, and encourages passers-by to help water and care for them. Whitmer thinks she’s getting close to figuring out who’s responsible for placing the tomatoes, but she said not knowing doesn’t take away from the point of the ‘bombing.’ ”
The medical/health industry continues to do well. Jill Jensen of the Rochester Post-Bulletin writes: “Rochester grabbed a spot in the list of the top 100 U.S. cities for economic and job growth in 2012, beating out Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington and Duluth as the top city in Minnesota. The study by Area Development magazine ranked Rochester No. 66 out of 365 metropolitan statistical areas nationwide. Columbus, Ind., and Odessa, Texas, topped the overall list; while the Fargo, N.D.,-Moorhead, Minn., metropolitan area ranked No. 5.”

Jensen is also on the bear-watch beat. She writes: “At least two black bears are wandering southeastern Minnesota, said Don Nelson, Rochester area wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. During the last week, the DNR has received calls about bears from people in northeast Fillmore County, St. Charles and southeast Rochester, Nelson said. The most recent call was Sunday morning, when a man spotted a bear near Spring Valley. The bears probably are young males searching for mates after swimming over from Wisconsin, he said.” So let me get this straight, even Wisconsin’s bears are coming to Minnesota looking for gals?

Despite very nice year-to-date stock price growth, Target missed analysts’ expectations for the second quarter. The AP story says: “Discount retailer Target Corp. said Thursday that a key revenue measure rose 2.1 percent in June as shoppers spent more on food and health and beauty items. But the growth in revenue at stores open at least one year was slightly lower than the 2.4 percent rise that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected. Its shares fell 47 cents to $57.31 in premarket trading.”

The GleanKind of like the non-news of 1,000 planes landing safely, Masako Hirsch of the Strib reports: “The Fourth of July’s reputation as the deadliest day on Minnesota roads might have to be changed after this year’s holiday. The Minnesota State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety recorded no traffic fatalities on state roads Wednesday, or in the hours leading up to it and following it, according to preliminary reports. For the past three years, Independence Day has been the deadliest day for motorists … Between 2008 and 2011, there were a total of 21 deaths in the 78 hours surrounding the holiday. Fourteen of those deaths were due to alcohol-impaired crashes. Officials with the Department of Public Safety and the State Patrol said it’s difficult to pinpoint why there were no deaths this year. There has, however, been an overall increase in traffic fatalities this year, according to the traffic safety report. There were 147 deaths midway through the year, compared to 136 in 2011.”

Expect a troll attack … MPR has a science story up from Seth Borenstein of the AP. It says in part: “Climate scientists suggest that if you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks. Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho. These are the kinds of extremes experts have predicted will come with climate change, although it’s far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June. Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated mathematics, computer models and lots of time.” Or … you can save yourself all that work by simply denying anything is changing.

Up at the Duluth News Tribune, John Lundy writes that UMD has bailed out of the controversial “Un-Fair” campaign against racial discrimination: “A week after University of Minnesota Duluth’s chancellor said the school wouldn’t pull out of the controversial Un-Fair Campaign, UMD has done just that. A news release from the University’s main campus late Tuesday afternoon said UMD had ‘indefinitely suspended’ its membership in the campaign ‘pending a change in the campaign’s emphasis and creative approach.’ June 25, UMD Chancellor Lynn Black objected to a new video released as part of the 6-month old campaign, which is aimed at promoting racial equality by calling attention to white privilege. The video, shown at, depicted white people with phrases such as ‘We’re privileged: People see us, not a color.’ Black said several people complained to UMD and the University of Minnesota after seeing inaccurate reports that UMD paid for the campaign and produced the video.”

He had to wait about a decade for another shot, but Randy Shaver is KARE-TV’s new main (male) anchor. At the PiPress, Amy Gustafson writes: “It’s official: Randy Shaver has been named KARE-TV’s weeknight news co-anchor. After nearly 30 years with the station, Shaver will move into his new role on the anchor desk starting July 16, joining Julie Nelson on the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. Shaver, KARE’s sports director, replaces Mike Pomeranz, who left the station in March for a job broadcasting pre- and postgame coverage for the San Diego Padres. ‘Julie’s experience and leadership is a perfect pairing with Randy’s news know-how and community commitment,’ said KARE president and general manager John Remes, in a prepared statement.”